Neighborhood playgrounds: Portland is blessed with tons of them. They’re close and consistent, always available with a swing or a slide to cheer even the grouchiest kid. But let’s face it, if you’ve lived in Portland as long as this writer, the sweet pocket park around the corner starts to get old. If your child is showing signs of playground fatigue – sure signs are deep sighs when he walks over to the monkey bars– it’s time you hit up one of these “destination” playgrounds:

Dickinson Park
Tucked deep inside the Crestwood neighborhood of Southwest Portland sits a playground that looks like it was designed by the Jetsons. Don’t go there looking for swings or tall slides (though there is one small slide attached to a little tot playset off to the side). Instead, bring your favorite little monkey along to explore the suspended rings that form a tunnel – or are they for climbing? There’s a 10-foot tall net wall to scale and funky, curved bars to hang from and swing on.


Keep in mind… This playground is a climber’s paradise, which is why it shouldn’t be your first choice if you have a toddler and like to use playground time to spend some quality time with your iPhone. There’s also no bathroom nearby, so plan accordingly.

Dickinson Park
SW 55th Avenue and Alfred Court

Murase Plaza

Your budding volcanologist will get a real kick out of the play volcano at Wilsonville’s Murase Plaza. The huge, red dome invites adventurers to the top, where they can slide down a wide metal slide that seems to magically let young ones go slow and older kids experiment with sideways or belly sliding. Those looking for an upper body workout can practice on two neighboring climbing walls (all kid-size, of course) or on the large, eagle’s nest made out of net. And be sure to bring towels and perhaps a swimsuit, because if your kids get anywhere near the cascading water feature at the entrance to the park, they are guaranteed to get wet.

Keep in mind… Yes, Wilsonville is about a 30 minute drive for those inside the Portland city limits, but it’s easy to make a day out of the trip. The playground sits above neighboring Memorial Park, with a trail system, a historic barn, picnic areas and an amphitheater. The Wilsonville Library is next door and there are shops and restaurants nearby if you need to refuel from all that playing.

Murase Plaza
8300 Memorial Drive

Washington Park Playground
Got a runner? Let them zoom all over the ramps and bridges at the Washington Park Playground, officially known as the Rose Garden Children’s Park. This park pretty much has everything: Curly slides, toddler slides and tunnel slides. There are swings for tots and bigger kids, tons of climbing options, and a sandbox big enough to bring Junior’s favorite dump truck at home. There’s also plenty of shade, which can be a great thing on those occasionally steamy days.

Keep in mind… This park is big, so if your kid still needs a lot of supervision, plan on spending a fair amount of time on your feet.

The Chelsea Anderson Playstation
What kid doesn’t like fire engines? How about an entire playground built with a fire station in mind? You’ll find exactly that at the Chelsea Anderson Playstation at Marshall Park in Vancouver. There are firefighter poles, chain links to climb, a kiddie-size zipline and perhaps best of all, a mock fire truck that invites climbers, sliders and wanna-be fire engine drivers. There’s also a natural play area nearby that beckons imaginative, tree-loving kids, and tons of swings and slides for all levels of gross motor ability.

Keep in mind… This park also is big, which can make it a challenge to supervise young toddlers or to keep track of kids of differing ages and abilities. The good thing is the playground is designed so that all the tot-friendly features are located at one end and all of the bigger kid features are located at the opposite end.

The Chelsea Anderson Playstation
1015 E. McLoughlin Blvd.
Vancouver, Wa

Bethany Meadows Park
Sometimes the best break from your neighborhood park is another neighborhood’s park. The Bethany Meadows Park is better known as the Pirate Ship Park, and while it’s nestled in the Bethany neighborhood of Beaverton, the park attracts plenty of kids from outside the ’hood. Let your kid imagine herself as the ship captain while steering the wheel inside the ship-shaped play structure. The playground features several climbing structures – no waiting turns! – raised stepping “stones” to help kids practice their balance and a nearby toddler-friendly play area that gives little ones their own place to play. There’s also a deep sandbox that is naturally secluded a bit from the rest of the playground, which is nice for corralling little ones.

Keep in mind… The Bethany Meadows Park isn’t located on a street, which can make it a bit challenging to find. You can access it by walking down the trail that meets NW Kaiser Road just past NW Wismer Street. Because you can’t park nearby, plan on packing a bag or a stroller to bring all the necessary snacks and beverages with you.

Bethany Meadows Park
Off NW Kaiser Road, just past NW Wismer Street

Did we miss out on your kids favorite totally awesome playground, or do you have a hidden spot that your kid likes to monkey about? Share them with us in the comments below!  

— Tamara Miller